South Africa began the Mark Boucher era with a batting display that felt more like one that belonged to his predecessor Ottis Gibson as they reached 277/9 at stumps against England at the end of the first Day at Centurion.
There was a very good crowd at Supersport Park for this Boxing Day game- nowhere near what the MCG had earlier in the day (80,473 for Australia vs New Zealand) or even what Newlands will have for the New Years’ test, but still an excellent one by Centurion’s standards, aided by the travelling Barmy Army.
England will probably be the happier of the two sides, but will also see the first day as an opportunity missed after having the Proteas on the ropes at 111/5 at one stagein the second session.
Here are our talking points from the first day’s action at Centurion.
A maiden golden duck for Dean Elgar: The first ball of the series saw Elgar nick a Jimmy Anderson ball down leg to Jos Buttler. It was an early Christmas gift for Anderson, playing his 150th test, and a first ever golden duck for Elgar, who has never previously been dismissed on the first ball that he’s faced in his 60 test career.
Mixed returns for South Africa’s debutants: The Proteas handed debuts to Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius. The former, apart from Elgar, was the only one of the top 8 not to cross double figures, but the latter looked decent for his 33. Both fell in identical fashion- caught by Joe Root at slip off the bowling of Sam Curran.
Sam Curran impresses: Speaking of Curran, the 21 year old was the pick of England’s bowlers at Supersport Park. Whenever a South African partnership threatened to become dangerous, Curran nipped it in the bud. As mentioned before, he took out both Van der Dussen and Pretorius, and also opener Aiden Markram and the innings’ top scorer, Quinton de Kock. Joe Root had only four pacers to turn to because of Ben Stokes’ troublesome knee, and Curran ensured that his captain’s decision at the toss to field first didn’t go against the visitors.
Curran’s selection also merits asking another question- did South Africa err by not picking Beuran Hendricks on this track?
South Africa will also miss Philander the batsman: Vernon Philander has been one of the Proteas’ best test bowlers this decade, but his batting will also be missed when he retires at the end of the series. Batting at no.8, Philander faced 76 balls- the third most in the innings after de Kock and Faf du Plessis, and was unbeaten at stumps on 28.
A disappointing day for Jofra Archer: Archer didn’t have things his way in the tour to New Zealand and his struggles continued at Supersport Park. He went for 65 runs in his 19, and only had the wicket of tailender Keshav Maharaj to show for his efforts on a track that had a bit in it for the bowlers. Doesn’t look anything like the Archer who bowled in the Ashes earlier this year.
South Africa 277/9 (De Kock 95, Curran 4/57)